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Obama Seeks 'New Beginning' for US, Muslims

The president gave a major speech in Egypt to the Islamic world, then headed for Europe. On Friday he visited the former Nazi death camp at Buchenwald in Germany. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

President Obama is calling for new efforts toward progress in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. He says "each side is going to have to make some difficult compromises." But he pointed to his recent talks with leaders on both sides. And he noted that George Mitchell, his special diplomat for the Middle East, is going back next week.

BARACK OBAMA: "I think given what we have done so far, we have at least created the space, the atmosphere in which talks can restart."

President Obama spoke Friday in Germany, part of a European visit to remember the Allied invasion on D-Day, June sixth, nineteen forty-four. He met with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Dresden. Later they visited the remains of the Nazi death camp at Buchenwald. The president's great uncle was part of American forces who liberated the camp. The murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust led to the creation of Israel.

Friday's visit came a day after President Obama gave a speech in Egypt directed to the world's more than one billion Muslims. At Cairo University he called for "a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world." He said they should work together to stop extremism and support peace.

He spoke of being a Christian whose father came from a Kenyan family with generations of Muslims. He also noted that as a boy he spent several years in the country with the world's largest Muslim population, Indonesia.

BARACK OBAMA: "That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn't."

President Obama discussed several areas of tensions, especially the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

BARACK OBAMA: "If we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth."

He called America's bond with Israel "unbreakable" and said the tragic history that led to a Jewish homeland cannot be denied. But he went on to say "it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people -- Muslims and Christians -- have suffered in pursuit of a homeland."

He said the Palestinians must reject violence, but he also demanded a stop to Israeli settlement activity. He said again that the only solution is two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security. In his words, "That is in Israel's interest, Palestine's interest, America's interest and the world's interest."

Many Muslims who commented on the speech said they were generally pleased. But they said that of course the true test would not be in words, but actions.

The president used words from the Koran several times throughout his speech. He also called for religious understanding and spoke of the importance of equality for women. The speech contained no major policy changes. But it did signal what many Muslims saw as a newly sympathetic voice from an American president.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. For more about the speech, go to I'm Steve Ember.